Fight!

I need a fight song. Something catchy. Something that, whenever anybody hears it, they’ll experience a strange mix of emotions. Their adrenaline will get going, so the first automatic response will be fight or flight. But for some reason, my fight song will disable the flight option in everybody who hears it. At the same time, people will start to get really scared and panicky. But the song is going to work on even more different levels. While the anxiety builds, people will become paralyzed by their fear. They’ll want to scream out, run away, do something, but they’ll be helpless. And that’s when I’ll make my entrance. Because that’s how I’ll use my fight song.

My high school had a fight song. But for some weird reason, fighting was strictly forbidden. I remember one time I was eating lunch in the cafeteria when some kid lunged across the room at another kid and started pummeling him (there was no music, fight or otherwise.) The lunchroom moderators broke it up and I’m pretty sure both kids got kicked out.

I got into one fight in high school. I was a freshman. There was this kid who lived in my town but went to a different middle school than me. Ninth grade rolls around and all of the sudden we’re on the same bus. I’m like, “Hey man, my name’s Rob, nice to meet you.” And he automatically starts calling me Robbie, in a little baby voice, making fun of my backpack, threatening to beat me up.

So I stood my ground, kind of. I didn’t back down, but I didn’t really have any good comebacks or anything. So it would be him making baby voice imitations of everything I said, and laughing with all of his d-bag friends on the bus, and me just kind of, you know, standing my ground, but just boiling over with rage, red in the face, unable to think of anything to say.

This went on for maybe two months until one day that was it. The fight song went off in my head. And while I like to say now that I’m totally anti-fighting, that there always has to be a better way to solve an argument, back then I was fourteen years old. I was about as tall as I am right now, but I only weighed maybe a hundred and fifty pounds. I was just really ready to prove myself, as a man, as somebody not to mess around with, as somebody who had his own fight song.

And maybe this guy thought I’d be easy pickings, because when I told him we’d settle it in the ring, there was just this non-reaction. And he just kept making fun of me and picking on me as if I hadn’t suggested we settle things mano-a-mano. So finally I had to like spell it out for the punk. “I am going to beat you senseless.” Stuff like that.

Looking back, the whole situation was incredibly ridiculous. If I were this other kid, I would have gone to the principal’s office, telling him that it was me being the one acting threatening, who kept bringing up physical violence, getting me kicked out and then laughing hysterically in the corner while I emptied out my locker. But no, he eventually agreed to the fight. We had to do it off of school property, obviously, because even though the school had a fight song, yeah, I already wrote about the no-fighting rule.

So we’re riding home on the bus and my bus stop was first. So this guy’s like, “I’m not getting off at your bus stop. You have to come to my bus stop.” And I was just like, “You got it.” And when the doors closed and my house disappeared in the distance, everyone knew it was on. And then it was his house. And we both got off. But, you know, we couldn’t fight right in front of his house. Somebody might come outside, his mom or one of his little sisters. So we walked around the corner.

And it was like, all right, I’ve got the fight song blasting in my head, let’s go. But I always remembered something my dad told me, something about never starting a fight, but never letting anybody else finish one. So I was consciously aware of me not wanting to be the first one to throw a punch. And then I started thinking to myself, punch? I don’t even know how to punch. I’ve never really punched anything. Where is my thumb supposed to go?

So we kind of just circled each other for a little bit, throwing a lot of taunts. While everyone on the bus had expressed what I thought was a sincere interest in the fight, I guess that nobody really wanted to get off at different bus stops and walk the rest of the way home, so there was just this one other kid with us. Finally, my bully reached out and pushed me, tapped me sort of. It was kind of aggressive I guess. Whatever, it was physical contact, so as far as I was concerned, he drew first blood.

I reached back, made a fist, and swung as hard as I could. It was really a lot less dramatic than I thought it would be. I guess I didn’t have enough muscle to really make my hand do any damage to this guy’s face. After I made contact, we both sort of just wrestled, each of us not wanting the other to make another fist. From a block’s distance, it might have looked like we were dancing.

It wound up with both of us on the ground in one of those mutual headlocks where if I let go he would have had me, but if he let go, I would have had him. It was a weird dual, very clenched embrace. And the last thing I remember was that other kid, the spectator, him running off. Some adult passerby in a car stopped, walked over to us and pried us apart. Neither of us knew him, he was just some dude breaking up a fight.

I walked home. I thought to myself, well, I was the only one who got a punch in, so I guess technically I won. The fight song grew louder in my head. I felt the adrenaline surging through my body, but this time I felt a release. I stood up for myself. And the next day that kid didn’t make fun of me. He didn’t say anything. And that’s what it was for the next four years.

I remember seeing him towards the end of senior year at a party or something. We just kind of made eye contact, nodded toward each other. My archenemy. I wonder if he heard it as we were locked together on the ground. I wonder if he heard my fight song. I kind of wish I really had a fight song, like on the computer, an MP3 that I could play and get myself all worked up. But, like I said, fighting is pretty stupid. I’m an adult now. What if I got in a fight and broke my nose? That would be ridiculous. How would I explain myself? “You don’t understand, this guy was making fun of me!”

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